How Can I Know God’s Will?

September 24, 2015 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership

“How can you know if ___________ is God’s will for your life?”  This was the fear-gripped question that my friends and I would ask in college.  There were several books written on the topic and people found themselves in different “camps.”  This is what Christians do.  We ask a question, read a book and over-aggressively defend that viewpoint as if our mom wrote the book.  One camp was very regimented in their approach.  Pro/Con lists, seeking counsel, deliberate strategic thinking, etc.  The other camp was significantly more mystical in their approach.  God’s will can only be found in deep meditative prayer and it will be revealed to you in a mystical way.  God is not found through man’s deliberative processes.  Two different camps, but they both shared one thing in common: it was neither simple nor easy to determine what God’s will for you is.

We felt that somehow finding God’s will must be very hard.  It required a lot of stress and just the right technique and theological viewpoint.  If you failed to discern God’s will correctly, the consequences would be dreadful and perhaps irreversible.  Now mind you, we weren’t debating whether or not something bad was God’s will.  “I have been praying for a couple of days and I’m wrestling with whether or not God wants me to kill this dude or not.”  We also weren’t wrestling with obvious good things.  “I’m not sure if I should be praying or not.  I’d pray about it, but…you see my dilemma.”

We wrestled with choosing between multiple seemingly good or neutral options.  After I graduate, should I go to grad school or go on staff with this ministry? Should I ask this girl out or not?  What should I do this summer? Go home and get a job, go on a mission trip, what? It was easy to get yourself worked up in knots about whether or not what you were planning was right or not. The great fear was “being outside of God’s will.”

This struggle presupposes a few things.  One is that if you make a bad decision, and by bad we mean a good decision that we’re not sure was God’s best decision, that God would be mad, disappointed, judgmental, etc.  Another is that once you are down a secondarily good path (perhaps now apart from God or with him opposing you) is that you are destined down a wrong path for quite some time.  So the stakes are incredibly high.  You could think that you are making a good decision, and others may even agree with you, but if God disagrees and believes that you could have made a better (God-approving) decision, then you will find yourself in a bad place with God.

What this ignores is God’s sovereignty, omniscience and general good-hearted nature towards his adopted sons and daughters.  “I wanted you to go to grad school but you became a missionary instead.  You failed to determine my elusive will.  Prepare the smite button.”  God has made it clear that he is directing the path of the one who trusts in him.

One of the Best Far Side Comics Ever

One of the Best Far Side Comics Ever

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6

He is also giving the desires of hearts to those who delight in him.

Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 37:4

God also says that he has created the path.  That’s the hard part.  We just need to trust and follow that path.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Eph. 2:10

If we are following God and trusting him, then we can make a decision knowing that he is leading.  We can trust that God wants the best for us.  He is leading us, if we will let him.  We can trust him, not our decision making ability.  You will make some bad decisions.  You will zig when you should have zagged.  But we follow a God who will gladly use the zig to work the big picture plan that he has for your life.

This leads to another issue that we overlook: God is working a much bigger plan than we are.  We believe that there is no more greater pressing matter than what we will do the summer before we go to college or the next job that we will take or what house we should move into.  However, God is working a significantly bigger plan than that.  When we do long range planning, we think in terms of 5 years down the road, “How will this impact me?”  God is thinking about how this decision is going to affect your grandson, because he is going to live next door to a girl who is going to have a friend whose grandson is going to be a significant world leader.  He is thinking in 1000’s of years.  We think in terms of 5-10 on our best days.  God is working a big complicated, multi-generational plan.  He’s got this.  You can’t shipwreck God’s big picture plan.

You should still use a good process.  Wise counsel and prayer are always good ideas.  Pro and con lists are good as well.  Good decisions typically follow good processes.  However the foundational piece of any decision making process has to be a deep-rooted trust in God.

Delight in him. Follow him.  Trust him. Make a decision.